Tackling childhood obesity in Campbelltown

Cutting down: A project involved health experts, academics and council aims to reduce the rate of childhood obesity in Campbelltown.
Cutting down: A project involved health experts, academics and council aims to reduce the rate of childhood obesity in Campbelltown.

It takes more than a sugar tax or a ban on more fast food outlets to reduce childhood obesity in Campbelltown. It takes an entire community.

The South Western Sydney Local Health District – which takes in seven council areas including Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly – has the second highest rate of childhood obesity in NSW (28.3 per cent).

Now the health district, Campbelltown Council and Deakin University have teamed up to tackle the issue.

The three organisations are spearheading the Changing Campbelltown’s Future project which will focus on Campbelltown – with the aim to reduce the rate by five per cent by 2025.

The health district’s project manager Sheree Whittaker said everyone needed to be on board for the project to work.

“It’s the whole community that influence the upbringing and well-being of a child. It’s not one person that’s influencing that,” she said.

“It’s their families, it’s where they shop, it’s where they spend their free time, it’s their recreation activiies, it’s their grandparents, it’s their teacher – everyone has to come together to have an impact on the future of kids in Campbelltown.”

The project essentially aims to create a ripple effect throughout the area.

Wellknown and influenticial locals – who will act as “champions” – will be asked for their thoughts and input, which will create a “strong foundation” for the project to be based on.

Smaller community groups will then be asked to come on board. Those groups will be asked about ways the think the rate can be reduced, and how those ideas could be implemented.

Mrs Whittaker said there was not one solution that would solve the problem surrounding childhood obesity.

“This approach is about understanding, on the ground, how complex childrens’ health is and what a local solution might be,” she said.

The health district’s deputy director of Health Promotions Service, Karen Wardle, said a similar program had been trialled in rural Victoria and had been a success.

However, this was the first of its kind when it came to a large, urban area.

“We thought we’d translate what happened in a rural area, into an urban area,” she said.

Anyone interested in taking part can call Sheree Whittaker on 4621 8706 or email sheree.whittaker@health.nsw.gov.au.